Twice acquitted, ‘balloon girl’ free at last as prosecution drops case (VIDEO)

Ida Lim
Bilqis — popularly known as the 'balloon girl' — had already been acquitted twice over the same charge, but the prosecution had appealed against both decisions. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 15 — Dance producer Bilqis Hijjas is finally free from the criminal charge of “insulting behaviour” over the release of yellow balloons at a 2015 event where then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was present, after the prosecution dropped its appeal against her second acquittal today.

“Given that the DPP decided not to resume the appeal, I hereby strike out the appeal,” High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali said.

The prosecution informed the court earlier of its intention to withdraw the case as it no longer sought to pursue the appeal.

“Today is fixed for hearing but there has been a development in this case; the appellant has no intentions of continuing the appeal.

“Therefore (we) apply to the court for the appeal to be withdrawn,” deputy public prosecutor Nur Hafizah Rajuni told the court.

Bilqis — popularly known as the “balloon girl” — had already been acquitted twice over the same charge, but the prosecution had appealed against both decisions.

Had the case not been dropped today, the High Court would have been expected to proceed with hearing the appeal against her acquittal.

On July 10, Bilqis wrote to the Attorney General asking the prosecution to discontinue this appeal against her acquittal.

Nur Hafizah later confirmed to reporters that the Attorney-General's Chambers decided to accept the letter of representation for the case to be discontinued.

On September 23, 2015, Bilqis was charged with “insulting behaviour” with the purpose of provoking anger that may cause a breach of peace under Section 14 of the Minor Offences Act 1955, which is punishable by a maximum RM100 fine.

The charge did not specify who was allegedly insulted.

She was alleged to have released several yellow balloons printed with the words “Free media,” “Democracy” and “Justice” on August 31, 2015 at around 3.15pm at the Pavilion mall in Kuala Lumpur during the Kuala Lumpur International Arts Festival’s opening ceremony.

Bilqis had previously been acquitted twice by the Magistrate’s Court in this case: on July 1, 2016 without her defence being called and again on November 27, 2017 even after she entered her defence.

Bilqis’ family was present in court today, including father Hijjas Kasturi, mother Angela Hijjas and sister Dr Mulaika Hijjas.

She told reporters she was relieved the long journey to freedom has finally ended, adding she was happy this came in the “Merdeka month”.

Malaysians have the responsibility to keep holding the government accountable, even after the recent change in federal power from Barisan Nasional to Pakatan Harapan, she said.

Bilqis' lawyer, Eric Paulsen, said the case against his client was “frivolous” to begin with as she was merely peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression.